It’s officially cold and flu season, which means preventing the spread of germs is vital to staying healthy. Whether you’re a child or an adult, your overall health depends on washing your hands frequently, as personal hygiene begins and ends with our hands. Other ways to keep your immune system strong include exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, and avoiding stress. However, hand washing is just as crucial for the effect it has.
Advance ER says, “Hand washing is vital to the immune system because it helps remove harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause illness.” Germs can spread from person to person or from surfaces to people when you touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, blow your nose, cough or sneeze into your hands, and then touch other people’s hands or everyday objects, prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands, and touch surfaces or things that have germs on them.
Studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu. The critical times you are likely to spread these germs include:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- After using the toilet
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Before and after eating food
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- After touching garbage
Washing your hands is a simple, easy, and effective way to prevent the spread of germs. Follow these five steps every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
*If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.